Nov 6 09
by cara
at 9:23 PM
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Sensory Tub Messes

On Wednesday I put together a Harvest themed sensory tub for The Littlest Apple using popcorn, small pumpkin ornaments, and silk leaves.  (Wishing I had taken a better photo before The Littlest Apple started playing with it…)

Harvest Sensory Tub

This is not the first time I’ve used popcorn in a sensory tub, but now I am remembering why I stored it at the very very back of my supply cabinet NEVER TO BE USED AGAIN.

Sensory Tub Mess

This photo doesn’t actually capture the entire mess.  It doesn’t look so bad here, but this was after only 5 minutes of playing with the sensory tub.  It only got worse from here.

How do you mommies that use sensory tubs do it?  Is your child just more contained with his messes that mine, or do you have a super secret trick for containing the mess (that you’d care to share with me)?  I’m not a neat freak by any means (I hear my husband snickering now), and I know that my two year old is going to make messes, but for some reason, the sensory tub on Wednesday just crossed my patience threshold.  Maybe I was just having a bad day: jammed garbage disposal, lots of dishes I couldn’t do, ants, child who won’t eat, sinus headache (and that was all before 9 am!!)

The Littlest Apple loved the sensory tub, but when I caught him pouring the popcorn kernels on the floor (after the above photo), then later kicking the popcorn kernels that were on the floor, we I cleaned up the mess, and hid put away the sensory tub.

I love the idea of sensory tubs and I love that I can change the theme to go along with the season or whatever we are studying.  But seriously, I don’t want to be picking up popcorn kernels for the rest of my life.

So what’s your secret, sensory-tub-using mommies?  Help!

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  1. I like to do sensory tubs outside, but I know not everyone lives where it is warm year round. Another idea is to set the sensory tub in one of the under the bed storage bins, so when he spills it spills into another box, not on the floor.

  2. I’m afraid I have to secret to offer – I know this is going to sound annoying, but James just doesn’t like mess any more than I do. Perhaps my constant picking up (yes, I AM a neat freak LOL) has rubbed off?

    I do sympathize with your distaste for cleaning up the mess though – the other day we had a friend of James’ over and he destroyed the sensory tub, leaving a disaster worthy of a tornado in his wake. I spent for.ever. cleaning it up.

    In the future, when this child comes to visit I think we’ll play with the tub outside. Another option could be to play in the empty bathtub or one of those plastic swimming pools.

    PS: sorry to hear you’re STILL dealing with ants – UGH you poor thing! Ours have finally left for the winter.

  3. jenn permalink

    I have the same problem.

  4. In our church preschool and we use a Sensory Table instead of tubs. They can be kind of pricey, but I found that we have had a lot more messes when we switched to using the table. Ours table has two sides and I think the design prevents some messes. I don’t think the kids intentionally want to make a mess, they just love to see what happens when the spill, they like to watching it move. Maybe you can try having an empty tub also?! I like the suggestion of one of those under the bed storage tubs. Oh, we also have a large tarp underneath our table, then when it’s time to clean up we just fold it up and dump it back in!

  5. I always put our sensory tub on top of an old bed sheet. When Wes is finished I scoop as much as I can back into the tub. Then I sort of roll it up, carry it to the back yard, and dump it all out.

  6. Thanks for all the suggestions!

    I had a little bit better luck at first letting The Littlest Apple play with the sensory tub on a quilt on the living room floor, encouraging him to (at the very least) keep it on the quilt.

    As much as I would love for the sensory tub to be an activity that can be done while I do a quick task (pay some bills, empty the dishwasher), it is becoming clear that my little guy needs supervision with this. He was tossing popcorn over his shoulder with a ladle while I was unloading the dishwasher this morning! Popcorn EVERYWHERE!! So I’m going to supervise a little more heavily until he learns the “rules.”

  7. sdfds permalink

    A couple of things that stand out in the picture right away are:

    1.) The dimensions of the tub:

    The length and width of the tub are rather narrow. I’m sure that it’s hard to keep the stuff in there, when there is barely room to reach in with both hands and then move his hands more than a few inches from side to side. A sensory tub should be something that kids can really reach into and swirl things around for at least a full arm’s length in either direction. There should be plenty of room (and tools) for scooping, pouring, mounding, piling, sorting, etc.

    The depth of the tub is also odd. Why so deep? Once he reaches to the bottom and back out again, I bet you already have a mess starting on the floor.

    If you’re not purchasing a commercial sensory tub, then try something much wider and not so deep, Under-bed storage containers are great for this. They are about 3-feet wide and only a few inches deep. Perfect.

    2.) The tub seems to be placed on a table or something that is way too high. It appears that he’s reaching into something that is about as high as his shoulders. He should be reaching DOWN into the tub. If it can’t be placed on a low table, then placing it on the floor is best.

    As others mentioned above, it’s a good idea to put something under your tub. A tarp, a sheet, or even small wading pools are all great ideas. The wading pool is especially handy when wet stuff is in the tub (water, snow, pudding, mud, ice, shaving cream, etc.).

    I had to laugh about the ladling of corn over his shoulder. I bet that was a scene. You’re right about this being a more closely supervised activity. Sensory tubs are often filled with materials that could be a choking hazard in small children. Supervision is vital. In addition to choking hazards, what little boy wouldn’t love to put a few kernels of that corn up his nose? Just ask any pediatrician or ER doctor how many fun things they pull out of cute little button noses each year. It’s one of the most common reasons for urgent care visits out there.

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